Egypt Hints at Political Reform, Restores Food Subsidies to Some

(Bloomberg) -- Egypt’s parliamentary speaker said he expected political reforms and authorities announced that 1.8 million people had been added back to a food-subsidy program, after small but rare anti-government protests last month.

Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal said Egypt was close to “reaping the fruits” of what he called a transitional period. “Political, party and media reforms will be carried out,” he said in comments carried by the state-run Middle East News Agency on Tuesday, without elaborating.

Separately, the Supply Ministry said that since February, 1.8 million citizens had been added back to the food staples system, in accordance with directives from President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi. The program provides discounts for items such as rice and pasta for more than 60 million of the 100 million people in the Arab world’s most populous nation.

Abdel-Aal’s comments appeared to mark a fresh effort by the government to placate Egyptians after a slew of austerity measures to shore up public finances deepened grievances. The Supply Ministry’s announcement of an expansion in the program is a reversal of its stance in February, when it said it was tightening eligibility requirements for subsidies with new rules considering factors including an individual’s monthly electricity use, ownership of luxury cars or children enrolled in foreign schools.

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